Four editions of the Srinagar Craft Safari have already been kick-started and the fifth part of the initiative will be held once the Covid related weekend restrictions end in the Kashmir valley.
As part of the Safari, the handicrafts department has identified several artisans and clusters in old Srinagar city. At the same time, the safari has different routes. Going for a safari through a single route will take around two to three hours during which you will meet different craftsmen and also come across heritage structures of downtown Srinagar.
Rainawari – ‘Heart of Shehr-e-Khaas’
Last week we discovered Nowshera and Bagh-e-Ali Mardan Khan belt, and today we will see what the Rainawari area has to offer. The Handicrafts Department has promised that the journey to Rainawari will be a ‘walk to remember’. “On this journey, you will come across distinct crafts including pottery, woodcarving, zari embroidery, namdhakari, copperware, silverware, and much more. A walk to remember, a wonder to experience the tales of perseverance, and a chance to meet the people who have been nurturing the art for centuries…..Let’s now live through the journey of these craft wonders from the heart of Shehr-e-Khaas,” says the poster of the Rainawari Craft Safari.
Rainawari is located at a distance of around four km from Srinagar and you will come across the following crafts and artisans during the safari:
Pottery: Mohammad Rafiq Kumar
The earthen pots in the room of Mohammad Rafiq Kumar take a person into a nostalgic realm. These clay pots may seem like simple objects of utility but their making is an art of precision and skill. The clay is sourced and dried to be wedged and kneaded to make it fine. The fine clay is then centered on the clay wheel to allow the movement of the trained hands to be gilded with accuracy and precision to create objects of desired shape and size. A string is used to cut the pieces to be dried for a few days before putting it in bisque fire and kiln to be glazed.
Silverware: Shamim Ahmed
Shamim Ahmed has dedicated 30 years to the art of creating fascinating hand-crafted silver ornaments and jewelry. An expert at creating antique designs and classic patterns, his collection is exported and admired by connoisseurs across the globe. He set up his karkhana 10 years ago where he trains young people on the art of creating silverware. Besides ornaments, he creates décor and utility-based pieces.
Wood carving: Farooq Ahmed Gadyari
Kashmiri walnut wood carving is recognizable for its color and tone of the material (walnut) and is combined with local craftsmanship depicting certainly established motifs in a highly intricate and miniaturized form. Farooq Ahmed Gadyari employs a host of motifs that are largely based on the varied flora and fauna with the process of hand carving done delicately in various styles by means of varied tools. He has learned the art 25 years ago and is perfecting it with his passion and curiosity to learn new designs and innovative techniques.
Copperware: Mohammad Ashraf Najar
Copperware includes a collection of utility-based objects and decor items made by engraving stylized motifs on metallic surfaces. Samovar— a kettle or a teapot made with copper and intricately detailed carvings is the most cherished copper artifact. Mohammad Ashraf Najar creates the most exquisite samovars in the valley. He makes customized pieces and creates exclusive engraving designs which he has learned for over 35 years. The ‘kharbooz’ (melon-shaped) samovars created by him are one-of-a-kind and unique. The charm of samovar resonates in its vintage antiquity. He critiques the machine-made products which he believes discredits the hard work put in by likes of him by training and spending hours to create a hand-made piece.
‘Namdhakari’: Mohammad Sidiq
A ‘namdha’ is a piece of matting made of pressed felt either by mixing wool and cotton or entirely of wool. It is usually embellished with ‘aari’ embroidery in vivid colors and designs. Mohammad Sidiq was 12 years old when he learned the art of ‘namdha’ making. It takes him one to two days to prepare a piece, customizable in all shapes, colors, and patterns. For the making of woolen‘ namdha’, carded wool is messed, scattered, and pressed on mats. It is labor-intensive work done with the arms and legs. The carded wool is added to the sides and fringes for beautification of the felt. A solvent of soap and water is sprinkled as an adhesive, on the material and then mended by arms to make the final product. Concerned by the languishing condition of the production, he is training other people to keep this rich craft alive.
‘Zari’: Nazir Ahmed Malla
‘Tilla Doozi’ or ‘zari’ embroidery is done with fine needles. Zari thread of gold or silver is laid upon the fabric which is wound around the neck of the embroiderer and finally stitched down with a fine matching thread invisible on the surface of the fabric. Nazir Ahmed Malla was 12 years old when he developed a passion for learning the art of embroidery. He uses stylized floral motifs and geometrical patterns for embellishing the fabric. A single piece of traditional ‘pheran’ takes him five to six months of relentless effort to be made into the final ornamented, hand-embroidered piece of magnificence.
The Handicrafts Department is presently doing a dry run of sorts of the crafts safari, which is conducted on Saturdays. Few tourism players have already shown interest in these safaris and are expected to attract a good number of niche tourists in the future. The safari of late has generated a lot of interest on social media as well with participants from different walks of life sharing their experiences of meetings with the old city artisans.